By Julianne Homokay – Special to the Alpine Mountaineer
PHOTOS (Photos by Julianne Homokay)
On July 15 and 16, the brand-new program for kids, Rim Youth Theatre, will present its first production with a junior version of the iconic musical by Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin, Annie. Annie Kids will take place at the Lake Gregory Education Center, both shows at 2 p.m.
Handling direction, acting technique and voice and diction skills is Tracey Ellert, a working actor and storyteller who has been teaching Tween Improv Class, Spanish Storytime, and Tot-Time for Rim of the World Recreation and Park District for almost two years. She also premiered the first Mountain Moth with Heisler Theater and is an experienced storyteller and improv performer.
Handling choreography and movement instruction, Kelly Vento has been teaching dance, creative movement, acrobatics, and Look Before You Leap for Rim Rec and Park since 2015. She also has an extensive background in the pageant world, both onstage and in production, and danced in the Lake Arrowhead Classical Ballet Company’s production of The Nutcracker for several years.
Together, these teachers have been able to draw upon their professional experience to provide a well-rounded approach to the program’s instruction as well as a fully realized approach to mounting the show. They are also striving to provide opportunities for as many students as possible in double-casting four of the lead roles.
Even though this is the program’s first year (featured in the Alpine Mountaineer dated March 8, 2023), Ellert was ecstatic about the turnout, attracting 37 kids from a variety of age groups, elementary through high school. At a rehearsal on June 22, these kids were evidently excited about doing the show, too: “I practiced yesterday and today and the other day!” exclaimed one of the orphans to Vento. Said another: “Miss Kelly, I promise by Tuesday I will be dancing and singing at the same time or I will buy you a snack!”
Not that there haven’t been snags along the way. Ellert still debates over when the best timing in the year for the program would be, “between families being away during the summer” – resulting in absences that prevent them from having many full-cast rehearsals – “and battling all other extracurriculars and bad weather during the school season.”
But for now, the community is turning out for the show enthusiastically: Rim Youth Theatre has already sold $800 worth of tickets, including over 60 tickets for the Saturday show. And Vento and Ellert have high hopes they’ll be able to keep the program going.
“I want to start a theatre for kids,” says Ellert. In so many areas, from public speaking to study skills to self-confidence, she says,“This is going to help them in life.”
To purchase tickets, visit ventodancecompany.com. Tickets are $12 for regular admission and free for children 3 and under.